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Walk to Solve a Problem


JustLoveWalking-Lake-PathHave a decision to make you’ve been putting off, or a conundrum to unravel?  Why not take a walk?

Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.  –Wallace Stevens

Of course a walk is the perfect opportunity to “take a break” from all the concerns of the day…a break from worries, stress and annoyances large or small…and that’s great!

JustLoveWalking-Rodin-ThinkerBut walking can do more than that—it can actually help you to solve a problem, or at least move you forward in the problem-solving process!   Taking time with your own private thoughts while you walk, much like the great philosophers, scientists, poets, artists, statesmen and authors have done as far back as ancient history through today, places you in great company!

The famous mathematician, George Polya, wrote a book “How to solve It” (now translated into 17 languages) in which he extrapolated on the benefits of thinking a problem through in a whole gamut of ways.  I won’t go into the multi-tiered process, which is now utilized by scientists and schools everywhere, but one of his best tips for solving a problem was to try to solve a smaller related problem.  In other words, think through the problem JustLoveWalking-Puzzle-Pieces(understand the problem thoroughly) and find ways to demystify it by breaking it up into subproblems.  You can then solve these smaller problems one by one with a plan.

A huge conundrum just sitting on the back burner seems mighty scary as a whole, but when you think of it in terms of parts, smaller problems or subproblems…things you’ve solved before, things that can be researched, or solved with a little brainstorming, or by thinking of someone to talk to who’s been there before, then suddenly the monster seems more tame…more manageable!

I do my thinking while I walk. It just loosens up the mind in the way that you don’t get when you are sitting at a desk.  –Graham Swift

So how does this relate to walking?  Well…many authors and thinkers in various fields of endeavour have found that taking a walk just helps them to get their creative juices going.  I (humbly) can identify!  After all, a problem well solved usually involves some creative thinking, which just seems to flow more easily with a change of scenery within the context of a relaxing activity.


So if you’re at the crossroads of a big decision or are hounded by agonizing issues that you continually sweep under the carpet for fear of facing them…pinpoint a problem to solve and take it with you on a walk…think it through up and down, sideways, forward and back, stare it down…try to find ways of breaking it down into bite-sized elements that seem more palatable—more easily solved.  And then write down some of these thoughts when you get home and act on them!

Even if you don’t solve a problem while you’re out on a walk, just coming back with a relaxed, renewed frame of mind will help you to take on any mental challenge you might be dealing with.

Let’s face it, we all have burdens to bear, but the solutions do exist—we just have to open our minds up to find them!  That solution may surprisingly appear as you’re out taking a walk in a setting that reminds you nothing at all of your desk!

Have a problem to solve?  Walk it out…

Sandra – JustLoveWalking

Related post:  Why walk?  What are the benefits?

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